I recently wrote about Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina’s economic success, particularly noting that the state has a jobless rate lower than the national average, which is not typical, and we’ve had a string of new job announcements. I also noted, though, that she left some residents behind, hundreds of thousands of poor residents who would have health insurance now if she did not block the Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act. By doing that, she also blocked billions of dollars of economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs.
That piece can be read here: http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2014/06/21/4301511/issac-bailey-haleys-economic-success.html
With the latest national jobless rate and job creation numbers out this morning, it’s a good time to look at the same issue, but this time with President Obama.
First, the report. The jobless rate dropped from 6.3 percent to 6.1 percent; economists had expected it to be flat. An estimated 288,000 jobs were created; economists had been expecting about 210,000. There has been a 2 percent growth in wages year-over-year, and the prior two months of jobs created were revised higher, with May breaking the 300,000 barrier. This also marks the first time since the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000 that we’ve had five consecutive months of at least 200,000 jobs created. Job growth this year is about 2.5 million better than the year-over-year average, our best improvement since about 2006. The ranks of the unemployed fell. The black jobless rate fell. Also, layoffs are down, with another report showing a healthy 315,000 initial jobless claims from last week; at the worst part of the downturn, we hit 660,000 jobless claims.
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There are a variety of sources tracking all of this.
Here is one, the Wall Street Journal blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/07/03/live-blog-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-jobs-report/
Here’s another, Marketwatch: http://www.marketwatch.com/
That means that the unemployment rate, which peaked at 10 percent in 2009 at the height of the crisis, has fallen much faster than most economists expected, and we’ve never had more Americans working than we do now. There has been a big focus on the job participation rate, to try to undercut the good economic news. But the participation rate has been falling since 2000, largely because the massive Baby Boom generation has been retiring in droves and Generation X has roughly 30 million fewer people.
The Dow Jones Industrials, which bottomed out at about 6,500 points, is now approaching 17,000, while the S&P 500, the broader measure, is also at a record high. When President Obama entered office, we were losing about 800,000 a month; for the past three months, we’ve created an average of 272,000.
Like Haley, and every other top executive, he would be blamed if things got bad or didn’t improve – and he’s been blamed for a long time, even from members of Congress who were quick to ask, “Where are the jobs?” as though they had no responsibility.
It doesn’t much seem to matter to many people that executives have limited, not super human, powers to control something as complex as the economy and that often times they can make good moves that save us from disaster but get little credit because they didn’t “turn things around.” And sometimes they benefit from positive forces not under their control. But for political purposes, if they shoulder the blame when things go wrong, they should get credit when things go well. That’s what I said about Haley and believe that applies to Obama, too.
I said Haley left behind a few hundred thousand poor residents because of her refusal to expand Medicaid. Who did Obama leave behind? The president left behind millions of struggling homeowners who needed immediate, concrete, drastic help as much as the big banks did during the height of the financial crisis. The program the president put in place to help them was shallow and ineffective.
It touched only hundreds of thousands of Americans when it needed to help several million when the economy was at its worst. The administration seemed to balk at being more aggressive on the issue because conservatives would scream “handouts” and top advisors believed that if we only helped the banks and stabilized things, that would be enough. They were right to take the political hit to help financial institutions stave off maybe a full-blown depression. But they were wrong to not have the same mindset to help struggling homeowners, many of them in trouble because of decisions made by executives at the bailed-out banks.
Obama, like Haley, deserves some credit for turning around the economy. But we also must keep in mind ways they could have made things even better.